The first time that a whole-of-government approach (WGA) was introduced and operationalised in Romania was in 2002, when the country’s Supreme Council of National Defence (CSAT) was founded. The CSAT is an independent body working under the leadership of the president of Romania and accountable to the parliament, and it is responsible for elaborating the country’s strategic vision as well as for providing oversight of and for coordinating all security- and defence-related policies and decisions. Its members are the president of the country; the prime minister; the ministers of foreign affairs, national defence, internal affairs, justice, economy and public finance; the heads of the domestic and foreign intelligence services; the chief of the general staff; the presidential adviser for national security; and the secretary of the Supreme Council of National Defence (CSAT). This wide-ranging composition ensures coordination and coherence in both decision-making and implementation.
Since Romania’s constitution also makes the president the country’s highest representative for foreign and security policy, the commander of the armed forces, and the person who sits on the European Council, this institutional setup ensures coordination with the EU level, as well. Results of this coordination are then passed down the hierarchy to all other institutions represented in the CSAT.
The CSAT has a permanent secretariat that keeps tabs on the calendar of tasks assigned to each institution in pursuit of the goals outlined in the annual programme and any other strategic document. It holds regular meetings and also discusses and plans ahead for the coming year.
As mentioned above, the founding of the CSAT preceded the 2016
EU Global Strategy (EUGS) in terms of institutional setup, but the publication of the EUGS has been hugely instrumental in adding further substance to Romania’s pre-existing institutional framework. For example, it has brought more coherence and coordination between the EU level and member states in addition to requiring the same level of coordination among line ministries in cases where the responsibility for various tasks lies with different EU affairs departments. The high profile of the EUGS and the related communication efforts (as well as outreach events organised in preparation for its release) have also led institutions across the legislative and executive spectrum (e.g. ministries and parliament) as well as civil society organisations to become more familiar with it.
Apart from permanent structured cooperation, topics that are of strategic or high importance generate their own set of interinstitutional instruments for cooperation and implementation. For example, the issue of military mobility involves cooperation among multiple ministries, including the Ministry of National Defence (MND), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and the Ministry of Transport. Other examples include the Three Seas Initiative (with its own interministerial working group), Romania’s (now failed) candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and its efforts to become an OECD member (with a working group at the government level). Previously, the Danube Strategy and the national strategy for the Black Sea region played a similar role.
Prior to the EUGS, it was NATO-related issues that generated the highest level of coordination and cooperation, from endeavours aimed at meeting various obligations to participation in missions abroad. To some extent, Romania’s NATO and EU accession roadmaps, with their clearly set goals in coordination with the supranational policies of both bodies, and the benchmarks to achieve those goals helped to create a culture of cooperation among all levels and sectors of the administration.
However, Romania’s presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2019 marked the real coming of age, with the country achieving full maturity in its exercise of EU membership in the course of preparations for the presidency in 2018 as well as before that and during this presidency itself. The complexity of this exercise has made even personnel who had not previously been involved in EU-related coordination much more familiar with the workings of EU institutions and with the Brussels framework. One should also note that since even before these efforts to prepare for the presidency, Romania has had a European Affairs Coordination Council, which brings together all persons responsible for EU affairs in the line ministries in regular meetings.
In a nutshell, Romania’s focus on security and its WGA have their roots in its strategic culture. This culture sees the country’s position on the south-eastern border of the EU and NATO, close to historically hostile and revisionist regional powers and to turbulent nearby regions both to its south and its east, as an existential threat. The paradigm shift that it underwent thanks to its accession to NATO (in 2004) and the EU (in 2007) not only resulted in a clear foreign policy option, but also brought about internal reform (e.g. regarding the rule of law, pluralism, and checks and balances). These changes, in turn, have made many aware that strategic stability is the cumulative result of foreign policy options and internal action in various sectors. What’s more, the current WGA and integrated approach can probably be attributed to these realisations.